Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bat Coffee

WARNING: if you have a weak stomach, this post may not be for you. If you want to continue reading, don't say I didn't warn you...

I heard this story on the radio this morning and thought it was too disgusting not to write about. A woman in Iowa sets her coffee maker every night to automatically turn on and brew coffee in the morning. So one evening she set her coffee maker and went to bed. The next morning she woke up and had her coffee as usual. That evening, as she was setting her coffee maker again, she was cleaning out the filter and noticed that a DEAD BAT was stuck in the coffee filter. That means that the bat got stuck in the filter, and DIED there while the coffee brewed. Little did the woman know that she was drinking dead bat coffee the following morning! When the woman discovered the bat, she immediately contacted the health services folks and is being treated for rabies.

And now for the most disgusting part of the story (as if finding a dead bat in your coffee and realizing you drank it's dead body juices with your morning coffee wasn't disgusting engouh): when they sent the dead bat to a lab to analyze its brain to see if it did have rabies, scientists couldn't tell, because the bat's brain was TOO COOKED for them to determine if it was sick! So the woman drank dead bat brain juice coffee for breakfast that morning. Nummy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

John 3.16

I went down to camp yesterday with a group of guys from my church to do some work on a new building down there. We put up some of the sheet rock on the interior of the building. It's about a three hour drive down to camp, so that gave me a lot of time to catch up on getting my butt kicked by Paul Washer. If you know me at all, you've probably heard me talk about this guy before, and how intense his preaching is. He holds nothing back and, to use an over-used sports term, leaves it all on the field. I highly recommend taking the time to download some of his messages, or at least listen to/watch this one if nothing else (it takes about 12 seconds to get going, so be patient). Washer preaches the gospel like nobody I've ever heard before, and he's done his share of riling up the easy-believism that has stained the Christian faith in America. One of his main points is that the gospel, faith, and Christianity is more than just "ask Jesus into your heart," and that in fact, if you think you're a Christians simply because you prayed the "sinner's prayer" at one point in your life, you might want to read your Bible a little more.

Anyway, I listened to three or four of his messages during my trip to and from camp, and I heard a lot of things that really got me to thinking. In one of the messages, Paul talks about what actually took place between God the Father and Jesus, and the depth of what it meant for Christ to bear our punishment on the cross and receive the just wrath of God. This got me thinking. A lot of people have said that John 3.16 is the gospel in a nutshell - everything you need to know is right there in that verse, which is probably why it's one of the most known and quoted verses in scripture. But if you simply stop at a John 3.16 understanding of the gospel, you're missing a lot. Consider this:

Jesus bore the penalty for our sin. But what does that really mean? It means that the past, present, and future sins of everyone who would believe were heaped upon him, and he took the punishment that was due for those sins (because of God's justice). But the punishment wasn't merely death on the cross - it was the holy hatred of God. Paul Washer made the point in one of the messages that I listened to today that the Jews did not kill Jesus. The Romans didn't kill Jesus. It's not even accurate to say that we (humanity in general) killed Jesus. The only option left is that God killed Jesus. Did you hear that? God killed Jesus. Think of it like this:

God is just, so he must punish wrong, just like any judge would do. In order for justice to be satisfied, punishment must come to those who do wrong. But instead of punishing those who do wrong (people like me), Jesus heaped my sins upon himself and took the punishment that I deserve in order to satisfy God's justice. Pretty basic gospel stuff, right? But also consider this (here's where John 3.16 comes in): God sent his one and only son into the world for this purpose - to receive the punishment for sin.

In order to understand the scope of this idea, I've heard a lot of preachers try to illustrate God's love by comparing the sacrifice of Christ to the sacrifice of one of their own children. In other words, I've heard pastors say that they themselves would never be able to sacrifice one of their own children - they love them too much, which is a great example of how much God loves us - even though he loved his son, he still sacrificed him on our behalf.

But this analogy doesn't go far enough, because we also have verses like Isaiah 53.10: "Yet it pleased God to crush him (Jesus)." Now, when it says "pleased" it doesn't mean that he was laughing sadistically or anything like that, but it speaks more to the fact that God was pleased to see justice served - even at the expense of his own son! Therefore I submit to you that God didn't merely sacrifice his son out of love, he brutally punished and killed his son out of wrath and justice, and this act of extreme punishment pleased God. That is to say that didn't just God regretfully pour out his wrath on Jesus because there was no one else to take it, but that it was done purposefully and brutally.

So if you go back to the analogy of not being able to sacrifice one of your own children - even for the sake of humanity - we have to take that to the next level: it's not just about sacrificing a child, it would be akin to sacrificing your child and being pleased with his or her death - that every blow he received brought you satisfaction, and that it was premeditated and purposeful. As a somewhat new parent, this thought is unfathomable to me. But then again, I'm not God and I don't have a perfect sense of justice. But if you really understand what took place on the cross, it had to be that way.

God HAD to crush his son, and he HAD to have been pleased to crush Jesus, because he bore so much sin. If God were NOT pleased by his death, then it wouldn't have been an all-encompassing sacrifice. In other words, if God wasn't pleased with the punishment, then justice wasn't satisfied. But instead, the absolute, full penalty of the weight of justice fell upon Jesus, and God's justice was satisfied. That's a punishment so unthinkable, I don't even think we can wrap our minds around it.

So then, when you hear John 3.16: "For God so loved the world that he have his one and only son..." also take into account Isaiah 53 10: "Yet it pleased God to crush him...." When you realize these things, it opens up a whole new level of glory in the cross - in that God loved me enough to brutally crush his own son and be pleased in the working of his justice; in that Jesus willingly went to the cross to be crushed by his Father for me. The whole idea is mind boggling! I don't think there are words to describe the depth of emotion between the Father and the Son in the event of the cross.

It makes me think differently about John 3.16.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Q & A

MESSAGE: Faith's Questions (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 7.18-23

This passage from Luke teaches us by way of John the Baptist that it is okay to have questions about our faith, and that questions, rather than being a display of doubt, is actually a display of faith. Think about it: if you actually have a good, reasonable, honest question about faith, God, the Bible, Jesus, or whatever, and you have a sincere and honest desire to find a good satisfying question, and you are willing to believe the answers you find - that's going to take a lot of work. You'll have to study, you'll have to spend a lot of time in prayer, you might spend some time fasting - you'll ultimately have to spend a lot of time seeking God. And what could be more of a confirmation of faith than a desire to seek truth through God? All that to say that questions about faith are good, and we should be ready to ask them, and willing to seek the answers to them.

But what happens when people have questions about faith, but they don't have anyone to help them seek the answers? I discovered at least one answer to this question when I did a project for one of my seminary classes this past summer. I had to interview some peeps who had grown up in the church and ask them what they thought about the mission of the church now that they were adults. I interviewed three people and got a wide variety of responses. I asked questions like: Do you think the church has progressed or emerged in ways that satisfy the spiritual and social needs of people in your age demographic? and What do you think the mission of the church should be? That is to say, what do you think is the purpose of the church’s existence? and What problems or disagreements do you have with the church at this point in your life?

One guy that I interviewed did NOT have a good experience in the church as a kid, and has grown up to hate the church, hate the faith, and really, hate Jesus (this really is an accurate explanation of the way he feels - I'm not going overboard here. How do I know he feels this way? He's told me - he's not shy about sharing how he feels!). And at least to some extent, his attitude toward the church today is partially based upon the fact that nobody wanted or was willing to answer his questions about faith when he was a teenager. I asked him this question: If you could give the church one piece of advice, what would it be? His answer is as follows:

“I feel the church didn’t stick with the younger people who they indoctrinated as children, who then grew up and started thinking for themselves. Rather than assist in the thought-process and exploration, they are too quick to tell you to “just believe what you were taught and don’t ask questions.”

Wow! Did you hear that? Read that again, because I think it's a very telling statement. Now let's get one thing clear: this guy is still responsible for his own salvation. That is to say that the excuse of "the church didn't help me when I had questions" isn't going to garner any mercy from God. Each man and woman is responsible to make a decision about Jesus, regardless of what someone or some church did or did not do to/for them. But still, I think it's a shame that when an individual comes to a religious establishment with honest questions about faith and God, the church tells them to be quiet and just believe because we said so. You will NOT find this kind of attitude towards questions about faith in scripture at all. That's obvious just from the passage we looked at at SHOUT last week - faithful, God-fearing Christians can have questions...and they can receive real, honest answers.

I was talking to a lady at church recently about our Christian Education ministries (Sunday School, Bible studies, Children's Church, etc.), and we were talking about what a person should be able to do as a Christian as a result of being a part of our Christian Education ministries. This lady has a young son, and she replied that when her son has grown into a mature follower of Christ, she wants him to be able to think - to be able to look at God, have a question, seek out an answer, realize truth when they find it, and believe it. Could there be a more valuable skill? To ask questions and to work to find true answers, and when found, exercise faith and believe? All Christians should be able to do this. In fact, I really believe that this is the foundation of faith - to be able to ask, receive, and believe.

Questions about faith and God aren't necessarily bad, but they do represent at least a bit of a danger. Most of the time people ask questions because they're trying to justify themselves in some way. What does that mean? It means that there's some part of the Christian life that doesn't really fit with what they want to do. For example, Christianity calls for repentance - turning from sin. Some people are ok with that - at least in most areas - but there are usually some areas where God and faith aren't allowed. There are some things that people don't want to give up, some areas of their lives that they don't want to surrender to Jesus. Thus they ask questions that plead their case - questions that justify their specific behavior or lack of belief, usually appealing to some cultural norm, or saying something like, "That was the way they did it back in Bible times. We don't have to do things like that today."

Also, questions can be dangerous because people tend to not believe the answers they're given, and they ask more questions. A lot of times if someone gets a biblical, honest answer from scripture, they don't want to believe it because it doesn't fit their lifestyle (see above), so they ask more questions until they find an answer that they like and that DOES fit their lifestyle. There is no faith in this. This is doubt. This is receiving a clear answer to a question from God, and denying it's truth. This is sin.

I mentioned at SHOUT this past week that sometimes it's discouraging to be behind a pulpit and hearing a chorus of "Amen's" from the congregation (don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it when people "Amen" me from the congregation - it's just that some times I feel that people switch their brain to "Amen" mode when they walk into church. People need to realize that things aren't true because the pastor says them - they are true because they are true). That is to say that I don't want you to particularly "Amen" what I'm saying simply because I'm saying it from behind a pulpit with assumed authority just because of my position. By all means, feel free to "Amen" all you like, but only after you've asked, received, and believed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm A PC

Have you seen this?

I saw this for the first time during the Vikings game today. I assume that these commercials are a response to the popular and funny commercials that Apple has been doing for some time now ("Hi, I'm a Mac," "and I'm a PC" and so on and so forth). Talk about a reaction! This advertisement for Microsoft is clearly a strong reaction to the Apple commercials, trying to justify themselves and show how cool, hip, and relevant they are to the world of computing. I almost felt like the ad was channeling Stuart Smalley: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." I thought the most ridiculous line of the ad was, "I'm a PC, and I'm a human being; not a human doing; not a human thinking, a human being." What the heck does that even mean, and what in the world does it have to do with computers? It's almost like they were trying to make me feel sorry for them - that they've been so unfairly judged and characterized as weirdo, unhip, computer nerds. Let me assure you PC users: no one cares! You don't need to justify your computer preference! It's really not that big of a deal.

If you know me at all, I'm an Apple user, so I am completely biased. But I really don't get into the nerdy "Macs are better than PC's" arguments with other people. Truth be told, I really don't care - use whatever computer you want. I happen to like Apples. Who cares? Apparently it matters, and for some reason I need to know that people who use PC's are cool too. How stupid.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


A few years back, I heard about a group called the Rational Response Squad. These folks spend their time combating Christianity and figuring out ways they can fight against "theism." They see religion as being detrimental to society (specifically the Christian religion), and the group's leader, Brian Sapient, has implied that he is fighting against the forces of God for the betterment of humanity. The group enjoyed a brief stint in the national media by encouraging their followers to video tape themselves "blaspheming" the Holy Spirit and post it on the web. They also gained some exposure when Nightline held a debate regarding the existence of God between them and the people from The Way of the Master.

When I first discovered this group, they were pushing a newly released documentary called The God Who Wasn't There. The title of the film is a play on Francis Schaeffer's long-appreciated work, The God Who Is There. When I first learned of the film, I of course had a desire to see it, because the website promised me that I wanted to see what arguments these atheists had for the non-existence of God. But alas, my local Blockbuster did not carry the movie, and I was definitely not going to cough up the $20.00 and purchase the movie. But then, through the miracle of Blockbuster online, I was finally able to see the movie.

My original thought was that I would take a few notes while I watched the movie, and I would then post some of my thoughts and rebuttals in this blog. Well, I did not take notes, and I am not going to post any thoughts I had on the content of the movie, nor am I going to rebut any arguments with my own. Let me refer you back to the title of this post: "Disappointed." That's exactly what I was after watching this movie. After being promised that I would be astounded, have my faith challenged, and have my belief in God "fixed," I was utterly let down that none of these things even came close to happening. I wanted something to write about, an idea to challenge me to work, read, and study so I could give a response! But alas, it was nothing more than the usual atheist dribble. And even worse, it was extremely poorly put together atheist dribble. Let me share with you a few reasons why I was extremely disappointed by this movie:

1. The movie was less than an hour long. You don't even have enough atheistic arguments to fill an hour?!

2. The maker of this movie had/presumably has no credible knowledge of Christian history, or even secular history for that matter. His ridiculous, unhistorical, undocumented claims about Christian history and tradition were actually embarrassing. I actually felt bad for the guy. (NOTE: if you want some more info about just how bad this was, take a look at this guy's review of the lack of/misinterpretation of historical evidence cited in the move. NOTE AGAIN: the guy who wrote these reviews is NOT a Christian - he just knows bad scholarship and reasoning when he sees it).

3. Atheists seem to have no knowledge of traditional Christian theology or biblical interpretation. If you're going to make claims about scripture, at least do the work to know how and why scripture is interpreted the way it is. If I need to explain to you that the gospel of John is NOT based on Mark, and why the Bible does not endorse the stoning of homosexuals, you need to do some homework.

4. If you're going to cite/interview Christians in your movie, don't cite/interview the fringe, radical, religious activists that only represent 1% of 1% of all people who actually call themselves Christians. It should be obvious that Fred Phelps does not speak for Christianity. This gets back to the "knowing traditional and historical interpretations of scripture" issue. Come on.

But I think what really disappointed me most is that absolutely nothing new was presented by this movie. It contained no arguments or "evidence" that I have not heard a million times before. It was the same old tired line, and I'm sick of the same thing over and over again. If you want to be challenging to Christians, at least come up with some stuff that hasn't been done before, answered, explained, and reasoned out. Come on guys, get creative!

The website that promotes the movie has quotes from the LA and New York Times that say, "Provocative - to put it mildly," and "Explores the many mysteries of the Christian faith as never before," respectively. I'm afraid there was absolutely nothing "provocative," and nothing that explored the many mysteries of the Christian faith as never before to be found in the movie. Like I said earlier, everything about the movie has indeed been done before - and done much better.

All of this leads me to this closing statement: atheists, if you can't come up with something better than this, don't even bother. I am absolutely ready, willing, and able to have an intelligent dialogue about Christianity, history, tradition, etc., but let's do it intelligently, with a genuine pursuit of the truth. This movie was anything but.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fly Swatter Love

Several months ago, Fergie (my kid's nickname - we started to call him "Turd Fergeson" shortly after he was born - don't ask) found our fly swatter and wanted to play with it. Considering that it was full of fly guts, we immediately took it away from him and he became very angry. So we sanitized the swatter and let him play with it. It has since become his favorite toy. He loves fly swatters.

Last week I was grocery stopping, and noticed that Cub had a sale on 2-pack fly swatters. I bought a pack for Fergie, and gave him the orange and purple gems the next morning. He loved them. Last night, in getting him ready for bed, he absolutely refused to relinquish the fly swatter from his grasp. So my wife got him ready for bed and fed him, fly swatter in hand. When it was time to go to bed, he again refused to put the swatter down, so he went to bed with it. Later, when my wife checked in on him, we found him like this and decided to take the picture that you see here.

Should I be worried, as a parent, that my kid's best friend is a fly swatter?

Only A Creative God Could Do This

Betsy took Jamie for a walk earlier this evening. She called me mid way through the walk, and told me she was on her way back and that I should meet her in the back yard with the camera. I did. What I saw was disgusting, cool, interesting, and scary all at the same time. Judge for yourself (to get the full affect, click on the pictures and view them full-size).

Neither my wife or I had ever seen anything like this caterpillar outside of a nature show on TV. It was longer and thicker than my thumb! Look at his creepy, suction cup legs. We didn't touch it at all, figuring that those little barbs on his multi-colored spikes might be poisonous or something - plus we're total wimps. I don't know what kind of creature will emerge from this thing's cocoon one day, but I can't imagine it could be good. I kept expecting the Men in Black to step out and "flashy thing" us.

As my wife pointed out, it just goes to show you how creative God is.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Widows And Orphans

MESSAGE: Faith In The Messenger (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 7.11-17

This passage is unique to Luke's gospel - that is, he's the only one who has any record of Jesus healing this widow's son at Nain. When we come across a passage like this, that's unique to a specific gospel, it's important to ask why the author felt that it was necessary to include it in his gospel. Check the link above and read the passage before you go any further. What follows are some reasons why I think Luke recorded this miracle. (Note: we went over the first two at SHOUT on Sunday, so I won't go into them here. Download the podcast if you want to hear about those.)

1) To show Jesus' power.

2) To show that Jesus was God in the flesh.

3) To show that religious laws and traditions did not apply to acts of compassion. In touching the funeral casket, Jesus committed a religious no-no. This act would've made him "unclean," and he would've been required to go through a purification ritual. The fact that Luke notes this action is worthy of note.

4) To show that Jesus had compassion on the lowest in society. The fact that this woman is a widow is significant. In 1st century society, women were pretty powerless. They depended upon men for their living: their food, their shelter, their way of life, etc. Women were not typically allowed to work, so they had to depend on the head male of the family. Single women depended on their families. Married women depended on their husbands. If the husband died, the woman would then depend on her oldest son to care for her. This woman in Luke 7 had neither - she was a widow, and her only son had died. This would have left her utterly defenseless and helpless in society. She literally had no way to feed or provide for herself. Knowing this, Jesus has compassion on her and raises her son from the dead. Thus, her hope for living (not to mention her relationship with her son) is restored. Her son is now able to care for her. Her physical needs will be met.

Several times throughout scripture you will read that God has a special concern for widows and orphans. Why these two groups in particular? Because they had no one to care for them. As described above, women needed a male to provide for them. Orphans had absolutely no one. They had not family, no relatives, no parents, nothing. The best they could do was beg or steal, or perhaps, prostitute themselves in some way. Thus, no one was lower than widows and orphans were. And God says throughout scripture that he loves widows and orphans, and that his followers should love and care for them as well. Take a look at how God feels about widows and orphans:

Exodus 22.22: You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

Deuteronomy 10.18: He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 27.19: Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

Psalm 68.5: Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Isaiah 1.17: Learn to do good; seek justice,correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,plead the widow’s cause.

Jeremiah 22.3: Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

James 1.27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

These are just a few of the hundreds of verses in the Bible that talk about not only the plight of widows and orphans, but also how God feels about them, and how we are to feel about them.

The reason that God loves these people and wants them to be treated fairly and with compassion is because of their helplessness. And God truly desires to care for and love the helpless. I think it is because the helpless have nowhere else to turn; they cannot provide for themselves; they have no one to provide for them; they have no hope of anything good in this life. And it is when one realizes this (everyone, if known for their true spiritual state, is a helpless widow or orphan - they just don't realize it), that they are helpless, it is a very rational and expected thing to turn to God for help. It boils down to this: widows and orphans are humble. They have nothing in and of themselves, so they will seek deliverance from God.

In this passage from Luke, Jesus shows compassion for this widow - the least in society, and shows us how to live and act as his followers: we are to have compassion on those in society who cannot help themselves, have no one to turn to, and have no hope of anything in this life. In commanding us to care for widows and orphans, God commands us to care for the least of these in society. Why? Because God cares, and so should we. And also, because through our compassion, and their humility, they might see Christ and come to him.

At SHOUT we looked briefly at how we are the representation of Christ on this earth - through our thoughts, desires, words, and actions. The world sees the power of Christ through what we do and say on earth. And we are messengers of Christ by taking his message of salvation to the world. We preach as he preached. Basically, everything that Jesus said and did while he was on this earth is the model that we are to follow in life. We are the representation of Christ on this earth. What better way to represent than care for the least of these?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Seeing Isn't Always Believing

MESSAGE: Uncommon Faith (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 7.1-10

The centurion in Luke 7 showed an amazing faith - a faith that was so strong that Jesus said he hadn't yet seen anything like it in his life. At SHOUT, we looked at why this was, and what made the centurion's faith so remarkable. Check out the podcast if you want to hear about that. What I want to do here, however, is look at one other element that we didn't discuss in SHOUT that really made the centurion's faith amazing: the fact that the centurion had never once seen Jesus.

Luke 7.3 says, "When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant." It would seem that the only knowledge of Jesus that the centurion possessed was what he had heard about him from other people. He had never seen Jesus, never seen his miracles, never seen his power first hand. He'd never even heard his teaching for himself - he had only heard what others had to say about him.

And yet, despite his lack of personal experience in who or what Jesus was, all he needed was a testimony about what this man named Jesus could do, and he was ready to believe that Jesus had the power to heal his servant. That's pretty amazing. Believing just by word of mouth!

We often use the phrase, "seeing is believing" in conversation, meaning that in order for me to believe something, I must first see it in action. Or in other words, my visual observance of an action that proves a statement will be the evidence that I need to convicne me of its truth. The centurion, however, didn't need to see in order to believe - he was willing to put himself out there and trust Jesus. To me, this fact is absolutely mind boggling, and brings out a couple points:

1. To some extent, blind faith is necessary for believing in Jesus. Blind faith doesn't have a good reputation in our society (for some good reasons, in my opinion), and people who believe without proof are often times seen as dumb sheep willing to follow anyone anywhere. But to another extent, a certain amount of blind faith is necessary (and virtuous) for the believer. There are some aspects of the Christian faith that simply cannot be "proven" and must simply be believed. In a couple weeks we're going to come across a section of scripture where John the Baptist seems to question his faith (or more accurately, doesn't believe by blind faith). This is a healthy (and essential) practice for the faithful as well, which we'll get into later.

2. Sometimes, the most powerful proof that an individual can receive is the testimony of experience. The centurion believed because he listened to the experience of the people who told him about Jesus. He trusted their experience, and made decisions based upon the testimony of Jesus' power. He hadn't yet experienced Jesus' power, compassion, and mercy, but he knew people who did, and their testimony was enough to cause him to believe. This is also true in our day. I've personally seen and heard several people who, after hearing the gospel, asked the person who shared it with them how they knew all the things they were talking about were true. The answer is that I have decided to trust Jesus, and I put into practice all the things that the Bible instructs me on, and they have come true in my life. The proof is in the believer's experience, which then translates into a testimony, and the testimony translates into an avenue by which others can believe. All that to say that one of the answers to the unbeliever's question of "Why should I believe?" is that I have believed, and I can testify to the truth of what I am saying.

That's what we see with the centurion: he believed the reports that he heard about Jesus, and then he acted on those reports by "blindly" believing them, and then translating that belief into faith in the power of Jesus.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I'm super excited for this. It's a conference put on by Living Waters that's being held in October in Atlanta. It's my first trip down south, plus a lot of my favorite speakers and guys I really admire will be speaking at the event. I can't wait.

I'm probably most excited to see Paul Washer. I got turned on to his preaching a couple years ago, and haven't been the same since. He pulls no punches, and doesn't apologize for the sometimes for being the vessel used to communicate God's rebuke. If you've never heard of him, get a taste by watching this video. It'll take you about an hour to watch (I heard one guy call this sermon a "56 minute kidney punch" - that's pretty accurate), but it's well worth it.

And there's also Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel, and Ken Ham.

If I were able to line up all the speakers I ever wanted to hear preach in my life, these guys would all make the list. The Mrs. and I are going to make a week of it and drive down. Like I said, I can't wait.

I Complain A Lot

My choices for TV tonight were "The Academy" on channel 29, WWE Wrestling on channel 23, something on channel 9 that I can't remember, and "Stand Up To Cancer" on channels 4, 5, and 11 (technically just 4 and 11 for me, since I don't get channel 5 for some reason). Not being interested in "The Academy," wrestling, or whatever was on channel 9, I chose to watch celebrities stand up for cancer.

The title of this blog is "I Complain A Lot," because I think I do...and I don't know why. Some people say I'm a pessimist. I prefer to think of myself as a realist - identifying the situation for what it is (which admittedly, usually sucks - there's that pessimism thing again). This was the predicament that I found myself in while watching the Stand Up To Cancer event.

So then, allow me to share briefly my pessimistic (yet realistic and, I believe, accurate) observations:

1. Celebrities need to stand up for literacy. Man, almost every single one of them stumbled over their cue card lines. Learn to read people! Sound out the words...you can do it.

2. Jack Black made an appearance and said something to the affect of: "I know all of you at home are looking at us celebrities and saying to yourself, 'If those people would just donate 2% of their salaries, they could do way more than I ever could,' so I'm here to get these gravy trains to pony up." Then he went about on a humorous attempt to muscle all the celebrities into donating. He even told someone to get him Steven Spielberg on the line. The bit was humorous, but I still didn't see the celebrities ponying up the cash. The ended the bit by showing Black scream in the face of some other actor, telling him to give. Well? Did he donate? It was meant to be funny, but what are they doing? What are they giving? I don't know, so I can't make a judgment, but I hope it's a lot...or at least as much as they're encouraging others to give in comparison to their own salaries.

3. I always feel like I'm being preached to by celebrities at these things. It's like they've got it all figured out and they're imparting their wisdom upon me. Celebrities, just because you are celebrities doesn't mean you're smarter or more compassionate than me. I realize this feeling might be completely self-derived, but nonetheless, it is my pessimistic (realistic) nature.

4. Can I watch at least one pop culture endorsed charity event without being appealed to by the liberal agenda? Man, I'm sick of celebrities (and people who worship celebrities) telling me who I should vote for and what I should think. Just entertain me. I don't care about what you think...just like you don't care about what I think. Let's keep it that way.

5. The biggest impression that I was left with was the hopelessness of death for those not in Christ. No, this issue wasn't specifically addressed, but allow me to explain: there was such an outcry for people to have mercy and give money for the sake of prolonging life. That is to say that the main drive of the fundraiser was to appeal to the desire to live. This is a legitimate desire, to be sure, but it is ultimately fatalistic - literally. Your life will come to an end, be it by cancer, AIDS, hunger, disease, whatever. You will die. No matter how hard you try to prolong your life, you will ultimately succumb to the pulls of death. No amount of money or good will can change this fact. It is in this sense that our efforts to prolong life are useless (no, I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to prolong life - we should, and this is a virtuous endeavor. I am merely saying that fulfillment and satisfaction that is derived from prolonging life is misplaced and hopeless). Even our best efforts to fight disease and age will not succeed. Death comes to us all.

In one of my seminary classes this past summer, we were talking about "holistic" mission - ministering to the "whole" person - spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. The prof used the following example to prove his point: there is a cholera outbreak in the village of Kunkwa somewhere in Africa, and people are dying quickly. Who or what is needed? A nurse? A counselor? An evangelist? Or an engineer? Each of these people would be beneficial, andI think that in the ideal world, all of them are needed. But that's not the answer my prof was fishing for. The obvious answer, if people are dying quickly, is "a nurse." Thus, in his view, we must send nurses. Who would disagree with that? Of course those people need a nurse! But that is not where it ends (or even where it begins, for that matter). To think that all problems are solved by the presence of a nurse is foolish (and to be clear, I don't think my prof would say that). But that is often the case, in missions, and in fundraisers for cancer research - we think that once we meet a person's physical needs, the job is done. Not true. Cancer patients who beat the disease and go on to live long, rich, lives will still die - if not from cancer then from something else.

The problem isn't cancer - it's sin.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


It's official: being sick blows. I don't think it's feeling gross that bothers me, it's more the lack of feeling normal. You don't know how good normal is until your condition is sub-normal. This is day three. I think I'm on the mend, but then again, that's what I thought yesterday too.